The Seal Of South Dakota was adopted in 1889. From the time of its ratification in 1889, South Dakota‘s Constitution has always contained the same detailed description of the state’s Great Seal. Now found in Section two of Article XI (titled General Provisions), the description of the Great Seal Of South Dakota was initially located in Section two of Article XVII (titled Miscellaneous) in the 1889 version of the Constitution.
The October 1 date was the day the voters approved the state’s constitution by a vote of 27,441 (77%) to 8,107 (23%). Research has failed to reveal the reasons the selected symbols were chosen. As a result, various theories have been advanced over the years. For example, the tree has been identified as an American Elm. However, the American Elm was not adopted as the state’s official tree until 1947. The three bundles of wheat could represent the three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial. The plow, anvil, and the sled may make reference to the agricultural background of the state and to its strong work ethic.
The bow and arrows, Buffalo, the Indian on horseback, and the setting sun could be reminders of an integral segment in the history of the northern plains. The motto is a quote by Daniel Webster. Although South Dakota became the thirty-ninth state, the seal has forty-two stars across the top. Since it was not known at statehood as to which “number” South Dakota would be, it’s assumed the stars represent the forty-two states which would comprise the Union by the end of 1889.
While the content has generally been true to the description, the design of the Great Seal itself has varied through the years. The first known design is found in the 1887 Blue Book. There were designs with slight variations from its predecessor in at least 1899, 1907, 1909, 1911, 1913, 1919, 1926, 1929, 1973, and 1987. In the spring of 1987, then Secretary of State Ben Meier commissioned Dickinson artist Lili Stewart-Wheeler to create a new design. That design was approved on September 17, 1987, and is the same one used today.